Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness, Reacting vs Responding, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

Be Mindful: Respond rather than React

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is power to choose our response” – Viktor Frankl

No doubt all of us, including me, have reacted at times in our lives when we should have responded.  Upon reflection, we can often identify those events based on how we felt afterwards. We may have wished we hadn’t said something, or chosen a different tone, or had simply removed ourselves from the situation until we knew how to respond well.  As adults, we all know the right thing to do.  Yet, often our emotions get the best of us and we react – at work, at home, in the car, on social media, etc.  Until we are shown, taught, or learn something different, we often don’t know how to control our reactions, or even recognize our behaviour.  

So what is the difference between reacting vs responding?

A reaction is instinctive, based in the moment and doesn’t take the long term effects of what we do or say into consideration. While reacting in an emergency involving life and death where your survival is at stake is important, it’s when we react in everyday situations that we damage our relationships, and potential for a positive outcome.  A reaction is typically quick, tense and aggressive, while a response is thoughtful, calm and non-threatening.  A reaction typically provokes and perpetuates negative reactions.

When we react, we aren’t choosing.  Rather we are allowing our reptilian (or instinctual brain), the oldest part of our brain, to take control. The reptilian brain is all about survival: movement, breathing, circulation, hunger and reproduction, territory, and social dominance. A reaction uses our reptilian brain, which is survival-oriented.  Based on what your emotions trigger you to do, you act without really thinking through the consequences.  This might turn out okay but often a reaction is something you regret later. When we choose to simply react to what occurs in our lives, we often behave defensively, such as bating or taking revenge, blame, scapegoating, etc.  Stephen Covey defines the difference between reactive and responsive individuals as follows: “Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance. Proactive people carry their own weather with them.” 

“Respond don’t react.  When you react to a person’s negative comments or actions in an angry, overly emotional or aggressive way, then you are giving that person power over you.  If a person can easily get a rise from you, then you are no longer in control.  If you take a moment and respond in a calm, healthy, honest and real way, then you are in control.  You are not allowing anyone to take your power away, or invoke a reaction from you.” Maria Consiglio

A reaction is usually quick and typically:

  • involves the reptilian/instinctual and the limbic/emotional brain.
  • is emotional.
  • involves speaking without thinking.
  • is often tense and aggressive.
  • creates conflict.
  • perpetuates discontentment and disagreement.
  • others are in control.

However, as highly evolved mammals, we have three brains: the reptilian brain or survival-oriented brain; the emotional or limbic brain; and the neocortex brain.  While our limbic/emotional brain is highly reactive and subconsciously involves our emotions and feelings, the neocortex is the thinking part of the brain, and where we have the capability to respond rather than react derives itself.  

It is the neocortex where we develop thoughtful responses.   This is where we gather and digest the necessary information, where we decipher what we are seeing and feeling, and where we put it into context. It’s future-focused, and where we understand the world so we are capable of making sound decisions.  It is why when thinking about how you might respond in a more mindful fashion, you can plan your future responses and strengthen your ability to take action that is in your best interest.

A response is a conscious decision that usually comes more slowly, and:

  • involves your neocortex or rational brain.
  • isn’t based on your emotional trigger.
  • involves acting by really thinking through consequences.
  • it includes a plan for future responses.
  • it’s non-threatening.
  • it takes time.
  • allows for assertiveness without aggression.
  • resolves conflict.
  • you are in control of your life.

While it’s not always easy to know how to respond best in every situation, being self-aware and emotionally intelligent help tremendously (topics I’ve discussed in my earlier posts). Like self-awareness and emotional intelligence, knowing how respond is a skill that can be developed.  When we know first-hand the negative experience that can result from reacting, we are far more motivated to make sure we respond in a similar situation.  It takes practice and requires us to be able to pause in nearly any situation before speaking or acting. 

To achieve our full potential, and become more successful both personally, and professionally, we need to be more aware of, and have more influence over our responses.  From recent brain research, we know that our brains are plastic and has the ability to develop connections with the other parts.   According to Dr. Bill Crawford, a psychologist who studies the brain, and concepts of responding and reacting, our brains are constantly rewiring with every thought, emotion, and/or behavior. He says that “when we respond to life in a way that is more effective… the brain creates and reinforces neural pathways from our limbic system up to our neocortex”.

How Mindfulness helps reprogram your brain

“Mindfulness give you time. Time give you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom. You don’t have to be swept away by your feeling. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity.” – Bhante H. Gunaratana

Your thoughts (beliefs) create your feelings; your feelings create your actions; your actions create your results.  Mindfulness is awareness of what is happening in the present moment, including awareness of thoughts, without any attachment to whatever you notice.  Mindfulness is helpful because it creates space between thoughts and actions.  By increasing your awareness of your thoughts, you can begin to break old automatic or habitual chain reactions between your triggers, thoughts, feelings and actions.  Each time you choose to not to activate your old trigger-thought-feeling-action-result sequence, you weaken the connections.  Furthermore, each time you choose a different action, you program new connections.  With repetition and practice, you hardwire these new programs so your new thoughts and responses become your new habits.

When we respond to life, we:

  • become the directors, rather than the followers
  • establish stronger relationships
  • become better communicators
  • minimize confrontations
  • find more peace
  • reduce regret
  • build a confidence that we can handle any situation we come up against
  • we thrive!

In essence, when choosing to respond versus react, you are taking charge of your life.  Choosing to be responsive is taking responsibility of our lives. Recognizing the power of our words, our behavior, our tone, our delivery, etc. will make a positive difference to those in our lives. 

“Instead of asking others to change their behaviour, your power is in your changing your reaction to their behaviour.  You have no control over their behaviour, but you do have complete control over your reaction to it.” – Abraham Hicks

How you can build a response habit:

Think of a time or situation that always causes conflict for you.  What are the things you tell yourself about the situation? How do you usually react to it? Record your answers. 

Practice responding to challenging situations until these responses become reactions.

Each time you enter into a situation that you know tends to cause you to react, take a few minutes to write down how you normally react and how you want to respond instead.  What will it look like? What will you say differently? How will you act differently?

Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles

Discovering our je ne sais quoi

” I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself” – Emma Stone

Inspired by a recent group of my workshop participants, as well as my upcoming trip to Paris, France with my teenage daughter, promoted me to read and reflect on the phrase “je ne sais quoi”, a phrase often used to describe French or Parisian women.  I read recently that we spend the first half of our life trying to fit in, while the second half we spend trying to stand out.  Inspiring, nurturing, and encouraging our children to have the confidence and independence to fully embrace their unique whole selves and live fully, especially during this first half of their lives, is my deepest desire for them.  I think the best way to do this is to do our best and model it for them.  I couldn’t agree more with the following quote:

“Taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your kids” – Lenny Lemons

Here’s what I found that best describes someone who embodies “je ne sais quoi”:

  • Nurtures her internal well-being as much as her external beauty.  Life isn’t about impressing others but enjoying herself.
  • Accentuates her strengths, focusing on her unique characteristics, both physically and personality.  Owning what she has, not fixing or changing herself.  She shows up as the best version of herself.
  • Keeps her beauty natural and authentic to her unique physical characteristics.
  • She finds pleasure in healthy, quality food, indulging in moderation.
  • She uses her clothing and physical appearance as a tool to establish and represent her state of being.
  • Brings passion to everything she does, from the mundane to the big things.
  • Stops trying so hard to impress others.  It’s about being you!
  • She is self-possessed, and builds her life around knowing what she loves, what turns her on, what’s she’s passionate about.  She builds her life on inner joy and personal radiance.  Finds answers within and shares that passion with the world.
  • She simplifies her life so she has more space to strive for passionate pursuits and stress-free living.
  • She savours the moment by slowing down.
  • While she visualizes and plans her life, and where she’s going, she can let go of control and enjoy her journey. She focuses on how to presently show up in the moment.
  • She does not take life too seriously, approaching her life with a playfulness and friskiness that delights everyone she encounters.
  • She continuously learns and grows.
  • She exudes confidence, intelligence, sophistication, and style that comes from the clarity of knowing who she is!

Understanding ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses, fears and underlying beliefs that get in our way to becoming our best self is fundamental in discovering our je ne sais quoi.  The “This is You” workshop and Striving Styles Personality System helps us to further dive into an understanding of our personality,  helps us to recognize our innate strengths, offers insight and understanding of ourselves and and how our unique brain works.  These are the skills needed to uncover and nurture our authentic self.  Contact me if you would like to discover your je ne sais quoi!

Emotional Intelligence

How’s your emotional literacy?

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“And sometimes I have kept my feelings to myself, because I could find no language to describe them in.” – Thelatestquote

Knowing how you feel and how to accurately identify your emotions through words – spoken or written – is a powerful way to improve our connections with others, build understanding, and enriches our relationships.  Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done.  Learning the language of emotions is difficult, and describing your feelings is tough.  At least it is for most of us.  According to Brene’ Brown’s research, the majority of people she interviewed are not comfortable with emotions and far from “fluent in the language of feelings”.

What is an emotional vocabulary?

An emotional vocabulary is one in which language accurately describes how you are feeling. While parents or adults often encourage kids to express their feelings with words (we tell them to “use your words”) we often fall short ourselves.  We often instinctively restrict our vocabulary to anything but the broadest terms (such as “angry” or “happy”) or adopt lingo (like “cool” or “awesome”) to abstract and generalize our feelings.

Why are emotions so hard to explain?

Emotions are very nuanced, with slightly different meanings, and can be very hard to explain. Imagine trying to describe a particular shade of blue – is it more purple than green? Bright or dark? Is there a specific name for that shade such as sky, navy, or indigo?

Emotions are often mixed, and to explain them, you need to be able to identify and label the tones of emotion that make up what you feel. This can be difficult for people who are adept at expressing themselves emotionally, forget those of us who haven’t had much practice developing those capacities for recognizing what we feel.

As a result, we will often forget how to express our emotions verbally, even resorting to emojis, LOL’s, etc. my personal go-to’s, ;), to clarify our feelings. These behaviors are not only adopted by our kids but encouraged culturally as the very speed of communications shortcuts vocabulary and expression to anything but the mere essentials.

Why emotional literacy is so important.

Many of us only know or rely on a few emotional descriptive words, such as mad, sad, happy. How often do you use an emotional word in everyday speech? Can you describe your emotions?   Many of us haven’t been taught.  If our family didn’t discuss emotions on a regular basis, or we were shut down when you tried, we wouldn’t have learned all the ways they can be described and communicated.

Emotional literacy is an important aspect of language.  If we can’t name or articulate what’s happening to us emotionally, we can’t address it correctly.  Much like when you go to the doctor and you are must describe your symptoms.  Without the right descriptions or words, the doctor is unable to accurately diagnose you, and therefore, offer the right prescription or treatment.

Learning to use accurate feeling words when expressing ourselves supports emotional growth.  Developing and expanding our emotional vocabulary will help us approach feelings and relationships in a more sophisticated and well-adjusted way.

Here are some words to describe emotions:

Anger

Anxious

Belonging

Blame

Curious

Disappointed

Disgust

Embarrassment

Empathy

Excited

Fear| Scared

Frustrated

Gratitude

Grief

Guilt

 

Happy

Humiliation

Hurt

Jealous

Joy

Judgment

Lonely

Love

Overwhelmed

Regret

Sad

Shame

Surprised

Vulnerability

Worried

 

Emotional Intelligence

What’s your EQ? The Four Areas of Emotional Intelligence

”You don’t have to control your thoughts.  You just have to stop letting them control you.” – Dan Millman

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

How we manage our lives and interact with others lies in our ability to interpret our emotions and the emotions of others.  Yet, nobody actually teaches us this. While we are taught many things throughout school, we were not taught how to manage our emotions and thoughts. Emotional Intelligence or EQ is the management and understanding of our individual emotional circumstances as well as the emotional states of others.   EQ is fundamental in the work I do with both individuals and leaders.

Emotional Intelligence has been proven to be more vital and a more accurate determinate than IQ when it comes to long-term success in one’s quality of life. Recently, we are hearing a lot more about EQ, a term created by researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer.  But it was  Dan Goleman’s 1996 book Emotional Intelligence, EQ that brought it to the mainstream.  It is often the detail forgotten about that upon tending to makes a significant difference in the quality of our lives no matter what the circumstances may be.  And, the great news is, unlike one’s IQ, EQ is a learned skill. Each of us has the ability to improve our EQ with awareness and practice no matter what our age.

So what is Emotional Intelligence?

It’s often broken down into the following three components and skills:

  1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others;
  2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving;
  3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.

There are four areas where one will exhibit if they have a high emotional intelligence: two components are under Personal and two under Social.

PERSONAL:

Self-Awareness includes:

  • knowing your story and how it affects you
  • making peace with your past
  • knowing your beliefs, your emotions & your behaviour patterns
  • knowing your relationship patterns

Self-Management includes:

  • learning skills for breathing and relaxation
  • completing your basic emotional healing work
  • learning skills for soothing and motivating yourself
  • maintaining healthy eating and exercise

SOCIAL:

Social Awareness includes:

  • understanding non-verbal signals
  • developing a positive view of others
  • understanding basic human emotional needs
  • understanding “games” and personal integrity

Relationship Management includes:

  • developing skills for reflective listening and empathy
  • learning skills for healthy assertiveness
  • learning conflict resolution skills
  • developing skills for support and affirmation of others.

A big part of emotional intelligence is being able to feel an emotion without having to act on it.  Exploring and understanding ourselves while respectfully and thoughtfully navigating the world around us whether in work or play is, when we look at what our lives are all about, what living well should be all about. Striking a healthy balance between ourselves and the relationships we build, and ensuring the relationships we build with ourselves  and with others are healthy, respectful, thoughtful, loving and kind.

EQ is simple in theory, and eventually does become simple in practice, but initially, it will take time, attention and patience to build a muscle that may not have been developed or used in quite some time, possibly ever. Now, as you will see below, there are many different characteristics.

What can we gain by improving our EQ?

Gaining emotional intelligence enables one to master self-worth, emotional and psychological well-being. With increased emotional intelligence, we are also much more effective in our relationships.

Benefits & Characteristics: Benefits of Emotional Intelligence

  • become the curator of your own happiness regardless of outside forces, events or people
  • solve a variety of emotion-related problems accurately and quickly
  • Be able to accurately perceive emotions in faces
  • manage emotions effectively – both our own and others – especially when we are under pressure
  • regulate emotions such as anger or jealously and keep them at a healthy level.
  • calmly find solutions to problems
  • exude confidence due to trusting intuition and not allowing emotions to get out of control
  • can look honestly at yourself – observing strengths and weaknesses – being able to work on areas you can improve
  • become comfortable with change
  • strength to say no
  • exemplify sincere thoughtfulness
  • able to be disciplined and therefore able to discern between immediate and long-term effects
  • thereby experience much success, effectiveness and productivity
  • strong listening skills
  • less likely to judge and stereotype
  • manage relationships well
  • able to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you
  • manage disputes effectively, become an excellent communicator, and become adept at building and maintaining relationships

The benefits included on this list are the reason I have been actively researching and continuing to remain curious about the concept of EQ. As I continue to improve and apply the practices of being emotionally intelligent both personally and professionally, I have begun to see remarkable improvements.

Emotional intelligence is something that each of us—if we are willing to learn and grow—can improve over time. An increase in emotional intelligence can lead us to more meaningful relationships and make us better suited to navigate the emotional landscapes of our lives. It’s not something that is easy to accomplish within a few months but rather it’s a journey over many years.

While we are often stronger with in one area over others, we can develop them all so that we become better leaders in our lives, whether at our workplace, our home or elsewhere.